Posts tagged with "White House"

White House to reset messaging on spending bills

October 5, 2021

The White House is looking to reset the messaging this week around its multitrillion-dollar spending bills deadlocked in Congress, as President Joe Biden hits the road to pitch popular elements of the package. NBC News reports.

Officials are hoping to get the focus back on the content of the bills, like programs that would cut prescription drug prices and lower child care costs, and away from the process and debate over the price tag, which has been at the center of infighting among Democrats in Washington, said a White House official.

Biden will travel to the working-class town of Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday to “continue rallying public support” for the bills, the White House said on Sunday, October 3, in a statement. Biden said Saturday that he may make other stops this week, although the official said nothing has been finalized.

Biden said over the weekend that he believed the messaging around the bills had gotten muddled and that he hoped to improve the sales pitch. The bills—one for $550 billion on infrastructure and another for a proposed $3.5 trillion to fund a range of social programs—are part of a major campaign promise Biden made to rebuild the country’s physical and “human” infrastructure and have been the focus of his domestic policy agenda as president.

There’s an awful lot that’s in …  these bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, October 2, adding, “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them, not everyone, over 70% of the American people are for them.”

According to NBC News, both the infrastructure bill and the social spending measure have the support of Democrats—but moderates have pushed to reduce the size of the social safety net bill, while progressives insist the spending is needed especially following the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Progressive House Democrats refused on Friday to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill until they had more assurances that the larger social spending bill also would pass the Senate. Both bills only need Democratic support because they are being put forward through a legislative process known as reconciliation.

In Washington, much of the focus by the White House this week will be on trying to reach an agreement among Democratic senators on the larger social safety net bill.

Biden had numerous phone calls over the weekend from his Delaware home with members of Congress, said the official, who declined to say which members.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden: It’s ‘inappropriate’ to use executive privilege to shield Trump documents from January 6 probe

September 28, 2021

President Joe Biden generally does not expect to assert executive privilege to shield Trump-era records from being seen by a congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection attempt, the White House said on Friday, September 24, according to a report by CNN.

“We take this matter incredibly seriously,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Friday press briefing. “The President has already concluded that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege.”

“We will respond promptly to these questions as they arise,” Psaki added. “And certainly as they come up from Congress—and certainly we have been working closely with congressional committees and others as they work to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6, an incredibly dark day in our democracy.”

Later, Psaki said Biden was taking an “eye toward not asserting executive privilege,” but that requests would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The White House later attempted to clarify Psaki’s initial comment about exerting executive privilege being inappropriate. They say Psaki was referring to a previous decision by the administration not to assert executive privilege in the committee’s attempt to have former Justice Department officials testify about an attempt to oust then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

“The Administration believes strongly in the vital role this Committee is playing and will continue to work closely with it moving forward. Jen was referring to the Administration’s previous decision not to assert executive privilege in the matter of certain former DOJ officials who had been called to testify before Congress,” an administration official said. “The Administration will determine any future questions of executive privilege involving documents and testimony on a case-by-case basis, as Jen noted.”

Late last month, Trump threatened to invoke executive privilege in an effort to block the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot from obtaining a massive tranche of documents it’s demanding from several US government agencies—despite his successor having the ultimate say over whether the information can be shared.

Research contact: @CNN

White House warns states of potentially dire effects if government defaults

September 20, 2021

The White House is warning states that a default caused by failing to raise the federal debt limit could result in drastic cutbacks to disaster relief, Medicaid reimbursement, school funding, and other programs, reports CNN.

“If the US defaults and can no longer pay its obligations, billions of dollars in state aid and state-run but federal funded programs could be halted,” the White House warns in a fact sheet for local and state officials.

Preident Joe Biden has demanded that Republicans join Democrats in raising the debt ceiling, but so far, GOP lawmakers have resisted. The memo comes as Democratic leaders are seriously considering adding a debt limit increase to the stopgap funding bill.

A final decision on whether to make that move must come by Monday, September 20, when the House Rules Committee is slated to take up the short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government open past September 30. If Democrats add the debt limit hike to the CR, it will set up a showdown vote days before the shutdown deadline, since Senate Republicans are vowing to block it.

According to CNN, the U.S. Treasury has said extraordinary measures to avoid default will run out by October.

The memo outlines several key programs that would be halted if Congress fails to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, infrastructure funding, education, public healthcare, and child nutrition.

The memo also warned that “hitting the debt ceiling could cause a recession,” suggesting, “Economic growth would falter, unemployment would rise, and the labor market could lose millions of jobs.”

“If the U.S. defaults on its debt, cities and states could experience a double-whammy: falling revenues and no federal aid as long as Congress refuses to raise or suspend the debt limit. This means critical state services will be at risk for budget cuts, from education to healthcare to pensions,” the White House said.

It also warns that capital market volatility “could affect state assets,” which could impact state pension payout obligations.

The White House expressed confidence the matter would be resolved, but declined to say how.

“We have seen this done in a bipartisan way consistently. And the best way to do this is without a lot of drama, without a lot of self-inflicted harm to the economy and to our country. And that’s what we’re going to do, you know, there’s a lot of posturing on this issue, but we’re confident at the end of the day we’ll get this done,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said Friday, September 17, on MSNBC.

Research contact: @CNN

House Democrats outline tax increases for wealthy businesses and individuals

Sseptember 14, 2021

Senior House Democrats are coalescing around a draft proposal that could raise as much as $2.9 trillion to pay for most of President Joe Biden’s sweeping expansion of the social safety net by increasing taxes on the wealthiest corporations and individuals, The New York Times reports.

The preliminary proposal, which circulated on and off Capitol Hill on Sunday, September 12, would raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent for the richest businesses and impose an additional surtax on individuals who make more than $5 million.

The plan could be a critical step for advancing the $3.5 trillion package, which is expected to include federally funded paid family leave, address climate change and expand public education.

But the revenue provisions outlined in a document obtained by The New York Times and reported earlier by The Washington Post fall short of fully financing the entire package Democrats are cobbling together, despite promises by Biden and Democratic leaders that it would be fully paid for in order to assuage concerns from moderates in their caucus.

Still, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates was cheerful about its prospects— commenting that the outline “makes significant progress toward ensuring our economy rewards work and not just wealth by cutting taxes for middle-class families, reforming the tax code to prevent the offshoring of American jobs and making sure the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.”

Specifically, the proposal would raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21% for businesses that report more than $5 million in income. The corporate tax rate would be lowered to 18% for small businesses that make less than $400,000; and would remain at 2% for all other businesses. The president originally had proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, a larger increase that both corporations and moderate Democrats have resisted.

To help raise what the draft’s authors estimate could be $900 billion in taxes on corporations, Democrats suggest additional changes to the tax code that are intended to bolster a global push to set minimum taxes for corporate income and crack down on multinational companies shifting profits to tax havens, a process that the administration is championing abroad.

According to the Times, House Democrats also are considering an increase to the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% from 37% for households that report taxable income over $450,000 and for unmarried individuals who report more than $400,000. For people who make more than $5 million, the proposal would impose a 3% surtax, which is expected to raise $127 billion.

It also increases the top tax rate for capital gains—the proceeds from selling an asset like a boat or stocks to 25% from 20%. Biden essentially had proposed doubling that tax rate. The proposal also would provide $80 billion over the next ten years for the Internal Revenue Service to beef up tax enforcement, a provision that budget scorekeepers estimate would raise $200 billion.

And while Bates, the White House spokesperson, said that the draft outline adhered to Biden’s pledge to avoid raising taxes on Americans who make less than $400,000, the document suggests increasing the tax rate for tobacco products and imposing a tax on other products that use nicotine, such as e-cigarettes. That provision is expected to raise $96 billion.

The document also outlines the possible inclusion of drug pricing provisions and changes in tax rules to “treat cryptocurrency the same as other financial instruments.”

The full House tax-writing committee still needs to release and advance text of the legislation, and it is unclear if a sufficient number of Democrats will embrace the package in the House and the Senate. In order to protect the economic package from a Republican filibuster and pass it with a simple majority, Democrats can spare only three votes in the House and must remain united in the Senate.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden to deliver six-step plan on COVID

September 10, 2021

On Thursday, September 9, President Joe Biden was expected to outline new approaches to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which rages on despite the wide availability of vaccines, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

In his speech, Biden planned to focus on six areas—among them, new plans to get more people vaccinated, enhancing protection for those who already have had shots, and keeping schools open, according to a White House official.

In addition, the official said, the president would discuss increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting an economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “We have more work to do, and we are still at war with the virus.”

Increasing infections have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Just over 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated, including almost two-thirds of the adult population, according to CDC data. The disease has killed more than 649,000 Americans.

With many Americans still skeptical of the shots, the White House already has announced plans to give those who are fully vaccinated booster shots for more additional protection.

In doing so, they have rejected arguments from the World Health Organization and other advocates that rich countries should hold off on booster shots before more people worldwide have been inoculated.

Research contact: @thomsonreuters

Washington Post publisher asks White House to help evacuate 204 journalists, staff, families from Kabul

August 18, 2021

Three top U.S. newspapers—The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal— are seeking help from the Biden Administration in getting their staffs and their families out of Kabul following the Taliban’s takeover of the capital of Afghanistan, CNN reports.

The Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan emailed White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday, August 16, with an “urgent request on behalf of” his paper, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ryan asked to have the publications’ “204 journalists, support staff and families transported by U.S. Military from the civilian side of the Kabul airport to the military side of the airport where they can be safe as they await evacuation flights.”

“They are currently in danger and need the US government to get them to safety,” Ryan wrote. “Please advise as to how best to proceed.”

Later in the day, The Times published a separate group statement—signed by the publishers of each of the three papers and addressed specifically to Biden. The statement asks the President for protected access for their Afghan colleagues to a US-controlled airport, safe passage through a protected access gate and facilitated air movement out of Afghanistan.

Satellite images have shown significant crowds of people and traffic jams near the Kabul International Airport and at the tarmac. Witnesses at Hamid Karzai International Airport told CNN that thousands of people were there hoping to board flights out of the country.

Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and Company and publisher of The Journal, echoed the urgency of Ryan’s plea for help in a statement to CNN.

“We can’t overemphasize the urgency of the situation,” Latour said. “Right now we are focused on seeking safe passage for our Afghan colleagues and their families who even now are bearing witness to events on the ground. We need the immediate support of the US government in bringing them to safety.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Executive Director Joel Simon recently made a case for helping the Afghan journalists “who do the lion’s share of the reporting for international news organizations, which have shrunk their bureaus as the American presence has diminished.”

“[U]nless the U.S. government intervenes to bring them to safety, an entire generation of reporters will be lost,” Simon wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post last week.

Last month, the CPJ and US media organizations asked the Biden Administration for humanitarian assistance and emergency visas for Afghan journalists. Signers of that July 20 letter included The Post, The Journal’s parent company Dow Jones; and The Times, as well as CNN.

The National Security Council and the White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment. Biden said in a speech from the White House East Room Monday that the United States is “expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy, US non-government agencies, or US non-governmental organizations and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk in US news agencies.

Research contact: @CNN

White House teams up with Match Group to add vaccination stickers to dating profiles

May 24, 2021

The Dallas-based Match Group has teamed up with the White House to promote COVID-19 vaccinations across its leading U.S. brands—among them, Tinder, Match, OkCupid, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, BLK, and Chispa.

Campaigns will include information on where to find COVID-19 vaccine sites and vaccination badges for singles to display on their profiles; as well as free “Super Likes” and other boost-type features for U.S. users who say they are vaccinated.

The campaigns will launch in the coming weeks and run until July 4th.

“Human connection is so vital for healthy lives—it’s why I am so committed to this business,” said Shar Dubey, CEO of Match Group in a company press release. “We are honored to work with the White House on increasing vaccinations across America, which will allow people to once again meet in person and engage in meaningful ways. This will make dating safer for everyone, everywhere.”

For many users across Match Group’s dating platforms, COVID-19 vaccinations are seen as a necessary step for singles to be able to date safely in person. Users this year have proactively posted about their vaccine status and say they view this as an important component of compatibility.

Below are examples of vaccine promotion campaigns launching across Match Group:

  • Tinder:Members will be able to add a variety of stickers to their profiles, including “I’m Vaccinated” or “Vaccines Save Lives,” with Tinder giving those who support the campaign a free “Super Like” to help them stand out among potential matches starting in early June. Tinder also will launch a “Vaccine Center” with a suite of resources to educate and connect members with their nearest vaccination site.
  • Match:Members will be able to add a new “Vaccinated” badge to their profile to display their vaccine status, with those who participate in the campaign receiving a free “Boost” to help them stand out on the app.
  • OkCupid: Daters will be able to add an “I’m Vaccinated” profile badge and will be featured within OkCupid’s “Vaccinated” stack—its new matching system. Those who participate also will receive a free “Boost.” The campaign will begin May 24.
  • Hinge:Hinge will give users who participate in their vaccination campaign a free “Rose,” which indicates to other users that they’re especially excited to get to know them. Hinge will encourage users to share their vaccination status on their profile starting June 1.
  • Plenty of Fish: Members will be able to add an “I Got My Shot” badge to their profiles in early June. Those who participate will receive 20 Live! credits to use on the Plenty of Fish Live! streaming feature
  • BLK: BLK will add a new “Vaxified” profile badge for singles to show their support for ending the COVID-19 pandemic. When singles add the badge to their profile, they will also get a free “Boost” on the app to be one of the first profiles seen by their matches.
  • Chispa:Chispa will add a new “Vacunado” profile badge for Latinx singles to show their support for ending the pandemic. Singles who add the badge to their profile will get a free “Boost,” making them one of the first profiles to be seen by their matches. The feature will be available starting June 1

Additional details on campaigns will be available in the coming weeks.

Research contact: @Match

Biden Administration works with industry to develop COVID-19 vaccination ‘passports’

March 30, 2021

Along with private technology and travel companies, the Biden Administration is working to develop credentials—referred to as passports, health certificates or travel passes—showing proof of vaccination as individuals and businesses emerge from lockdown, The Washington Post reports.

The effort has gained momentum amid President Joe Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy this summer; and with a growing number of companies—from cruise lines to sports teams—saying they will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again.

The Administration’s initiative has been driven largely by efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. The White House this month took on a bigger role managing government agencies involved in the work, led by Coronavirus Coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days, said one official.

 “Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” Zients said at a March 12 briefing.

According to the Post, the passports offer a glimpse of a future after months of COVID-19 restrictions. Officials say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world. But it also raises concerns about dividing the world along the lines of wealth and vaccine access—creating ethical and logistical issues for decision-makers around the world.

“A chaotic and ineffective vaccine credential approach could hamper our pandemic response by undercutting health safety measures, slowing economic recovery, and undermining public trust and confidence,” reads one slide at a March 2  conference prepared by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

There are several private-sector initiatives creating passports. Among them is the trade group for global airlines, the International Air Transport Association, which is testing a version it calls Travel Pass.

It is not clear, however, whether any of the passports under development will be accepted broadly around the world, and the result could be confusion among travelers and disappointment for the travel industry.

Vaccine passports will be most common on international flights. Some countries already require proof of vaccination for diseases such as yellow fever, and the United States now requires a negative test for COVID-19 to enter the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against travel even as the agency has relaxed other guidelines for people who have been vaccinated.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative is a coalition trying to standardize tracking data of vaccination records in an attempt to speed up a return to normal, Fox News reports.

“The busboy, the janitor, the waiter that works at a restaurant, [want] to be surrounded by employees that are going back to work safely—and [want] to have the patrons ideally be safe as well,” said Brian Anderson, a physician at Mitre, a company helping lead the initiative. “Creating an environment for those vulnerable populations to get back to work safely—and to know that the people coming back to their business are ‘safe,’ and vaccinated— would be a great scenario.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Come and get it: Biden says vaccine should become available to every adult American by May 1

March 15, 2021

Speaking from the White House on March 11 in his first prime-time address as president, Joe Biden insisted that Americans should be ready to feel good about themselves and their country again. Then he laid out some ambitious benchmarks that will determine how justified they are in doing so, Slate reports.

The occasion for Biden’s speech was the first anniversary of the date when the World Health Organization classified the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

It also came the same day that he signed the American Rescue Plan Act, the first major piece of legislation that has passed since he took office; which lays out $1.9 trillion in spending meant to help knock out the virus and revive the economy that it obliterated last year.

The details of the bill have at this point been well publicized—but what Biden introduced in his speech were two dates: May 1 and July 4, Slate notes.

The former is the date on which he says his administration will direct states to make vaccine shots available to all adults.

The latter, as you might imagine, has symbolic importance: It’s the time by which he says enough Americans should be vaccinated that they should feel comfortable gathering together in modestly sized groups with family and friends.

The May 1 date seems intentionally chosen to be a little startling: Previously, the administration had mentioned the end of that month as the time by which enough vaccine doses for every American would be available, and the end of July as the time by which they could be fully distributed. Neither of those targets is necessarily contradicted by the president’s declaration that “you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1,” though.

“Let me be clear,” the president said. “That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot.

According to Slate, there has also been an emerging belief among some experts that the public interest is better served by getting as many shots out the door as fast as possible, to whomever lines up for them, than by a slower process of careful prioritization.

The timeline announced Thursday, then, was less a promise than a national call to action—a statement of urgency directed not just at state-level political leaders and medical administrators but at the regular civilians at home who will have to take responsibility for finding themselves a shot.

Biden did, however, lay out goals that he can be judged on. For one, he promised that by May 1 the federal government will “launch, with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website.” The site, Biden says, will allow every American to easily identify the nearest location where vaccinations are available. Promised the president: “No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.”

Such a tool would indeed be very useful. It would also seem to be an enormous logistical and technological undertaking, given the number of different public and private entities that are already involved in vaccine distribution. (There is almost certainly no one in the White House who is not aware of what happened the last time a Democratic administration promised to launch a health care website.)

The administration also said Thursday that it would more than double the number of community health centers, pharmacies, and federally run vaccination sites involved in the effort to finish the job that it says will be done—or at least done enough to barbecue—by July.

“This country can do anything, hard things, big things, important things,” Biden said toward the conclusion of his speech. Now he’s given his administration four months to deliver a specific series of them.

But, President Biden said, he cannot do it without the help of the American people, noting, “I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.”

Research contact: @Slate

White House welcomes two ‘very good boys’ as Biden’s dogs move in

January 25, 2021

Who let the dogs in? Well, President Joe Biden did. And they are very glad to be reunited with their “hoomans,” according to their Twitter feed, @TheFirstDogs.

Now that the two German Shepherds are in their new home at the White House, they commented, “Our hoomans, @potus and @flotus, are heccin’ awesome.”

And, as for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Major loves the South Lawn and Champ’s Monday thoughts involve mainly “bacun,” according to a report by The Huffington Post.

The fur babies belonging to Biden and his wife, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, arrived this weekend—marking the first time a pet has taken up residence in the White House since the Obamas left.

Notably, President Donald Trump was the first president in more than 100 years to not have had a pet while in office.

“The First Family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, press secretary for Jill Biden, in a statement to CNN on Monday, January 25.

Of the two very good boys, Champ is more than ten years old and has lived with the Bidens since December 2008—previously cohabitating with the family at the vice president’s residence during Obama’s presidency. Major, who is three years old, is the first-ever dog adopted from a shelter to live in the White House.

Rumor is they soon will have a brother or sister. Dr. Biden also wants a kitten.

Research contact: @HuffPost